Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Agenda For Better And Stronger Nigeria
…if a people should ignore the reality of theirhistory, hitching for the pretension of a
would-have-been compact state, which has not shed its pristine bickering and divisiveness, such people
would have displayed an unpardonable political laziness of which the new foundation
for the evolving state should pass them by.…Haeder Jodl…in New Empires (2001)
Welcome speech of His Excellency, Chimaraoke Nnamani,
Governor of Enugu State, Nigeria
Eastern Nigeria Parliament Building
Enugu – Nigeria
Monday (nkwo), 19 December, 2005
Ten days ago, I had occasion to share similar thoughts as this with three of my colleagues. The next day, the fourth joined. We were thinking about the same thing – a debate on the Nigeria national Question, a debate on the Nigeria project. We were starting a dialogue where our forefathers stopped.
I welcome you, sons and daughters of Oduduwa, to ala Ndi Igbo. I welcome you, great inheritors of Herbert Macaulay, Adeyemo Alakija and Adesoji Aderemi. His Excellencies, OGD, Bola Tinubu, Ayo Fayose, Rasheed Ladoja, Ola Oyinlola and the intellectual storms-trooper, Segun Agagu.
I welcome you, leader, Chief Anthony Anenih. I welcome, Lucky Nosakare Igbinedion, scion of the great Benin Empire. I welcome the fine intermix of Urhobo and Itsekiri, Chief James Onanefe Ibori.
And, all our West Niger Igbo brothers and sisters – those sons and daughters of Stephen Osadabey, our steadfast kit and kin - who have crossed the great River to be with us today, you are also welcome.
From the great Kingdom of Bonny, Opobo, Nembe, Ishekiri, the land of the Ijaws, Ikwerres, Andonis, I welcome you, brothers and sisters.
I welcome, in a special way, my senior colleague, Peter Odili and of course the descendants of Eyo Ita, S. E. Imoke, Akpabio, Margaret Ekpo, Udo Udoma; men and women who once presided over this hallowed Chambers.
Elder statesman, Your Excellency, M.T Mbu, I welcome you also. I welcome His Excellency, Chief Olabode George.
My fellow Ndigbo, will I also welcome you? May be! But I would rather remind you of your great heritage of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, Akanu Ibiam, Alvan Ikoku, Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu and many those others who set the agenda of Nigeria’s various constitutional debates and dialogues. Indeed, the men and women who lit the candle and the real battle for Nigeria independence commenced in earnest.
As you know, starting in 1803 when it became clear that the invidious slave trade had been discontinued, Mongo Park had sought the source of the Niger but his hampered efforts were now heightened in 1821, when a British-backed expedition, led by Naval Lieutenant, Hugh Clapperton, sailed. Yet, its task had to be completed by the great siblings, Richard Lemon and John, Lander, who hit Bussa, and sounded the trumpet that opened the floodgate. Then, the making of Nigeria got under way.
Today, we are here to continue the dialogue and debate started in that yore of 19th century. As you all know, before colonialism, such dialogues had brought agreements between the colonial masters and Docemo, Akitoye and Kosoko, in today’s Southwest. As Henry Townsend and Samuel Johnson, major Christian evangelists, as well as other colonial adventurers swarmed Yoruba land, agreements were reached - legal, associational, constitutional or even diplomatic - may be, until the patience of the arriving masters petered out and Lagos was overrun and ceded in 1851.
And as colonialism really got under way, Bible in one hand, cannon (gun) in the other and the merchants’ sack slung over the bulky battered back, they conquered and pacified one heady kingdom after another. Naturally, discussions, threats and ultimata sounded before agreements were reached with the Efik/Ibibio, Benin, Ijaw/Ishekiri and the other sons and daughters of Niger Delta, as well as the fragments of city states of Ndi Igbo.
Of course it was without notice and consent of the natives that the colonial agents merged the Lagos colony and protectorates of Southern Nigeria, as a prelude to building a mega territorial possession for the Queen of England.
From amalgamation of North and South in 1914, and the constitutional conferences –all named after their husbandmen - Sirs Hugh Clifford; Donald Cameron; Bernard Bourdillon; The Lord Milverton, Sir Arthur Richards; Sirs John Mcpherson and James Robinson; agreements were reached on the impending Nigeria project.
These had attempted to negate and explanation of how the multi-nations had operated as sovereigns, with King Jaja of Opobo having agents general in the Whitehall in London and Fernando Po, up till 1875; the Benin court in Fernando Po and Portugal, up until 1897; Nana of Itshekiri in Fernando Po, up until 1879. Each of these potentates had his princes studying in Europe to be trained in the European ways.
It also ignored the realities of the various ages when the Kings and princes, on the banks of the Niger and Benue, held sway, operating as sovereigns and freely negotiated with colonial masters.
But of course the repeated protests and demand for inclusion had spanned an evolutionary phase of which, concessions, gestures and agreements were reached on how these multi-ethnic nations could live together, govern themselves, share their resources and relate to one another as free citizens of one country.
Today, what we must understand and talk about is a matter of nations and indeed, Nigeria has been an amalgamation of nations and interests, some pre-dating the nation-state, but arising from unceasing dialogues.
At post-independence, the debate and dialogue continued because the Nigeria national question was not resolved. From the 1960 Independence constitution, we had moved to 1963 Republican constitution, just before we plunged into the heady actions leading to the Aburi talks of 1967. The aftermaths were endless non-consultative law making and national actions, all culminating in the eventual Constituent Assembly which produced the constitution of 1979.
At the collapse or was it toppling of the democratic government in 1983, more dialogues followed with the Ibrahim Babangida Political Bureau, Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) and Constitution Review Committee (CRC), which gave produced a stillbirth, the 1988 constitution.
Subsequent to these were the National Constitutional Conference of Sanni Abacha and Abdulsami Abubakar’s Constitutional Committee.
By this foregoing, we can see that Nigeria has been consistent with debates and dialogues. So, do we now end the debate started by our fathers and fore-fathers and exploited extensively by the makers of the 21st century Nigeria, just because they said that the effort at reviewing the constitution is about third term? Of course, far from that. We say, no brothers, we only want to continue to talk so that we get it right.
It is against this background that we hope that this dialogue will be a clearer endorsement of the need to continue constitutional debates and dialogues. That is how to build a nation.
Indeed, as the nation state prospered, certain economic muscles were discernible in the various regions; cocoa from the West, palm oil/kernel from the East and groundnut from the North. The Government House where I work and reside was built from the proceeds of palm oil and of course, this Parliament building, where we are so proud to host you, today, was built on the proceeds of palm oil.
We support a people’s inalienable right to have control over their resources, not just as a development but as a reasonable gesture for the entire exercises in environmental degradation, ravages of hostile terrain and the eco-system initiated by man’s search for better material resources.
We can talk about what we see today, but as a fetal medicine surgeon, I worry about 10 – 20 years from now, when the devaluation of the eco-system would have started altering the configuration of the unborn fetus and the newly born child.
A time when people born of parents fed fat on vegetable nourished by carbon will begin to take their tolls, when organic acid from consumption of polluted aqua-foods would begin to result in complete distortion of the trend of birth in that region.
My brothers and sisters of Southern Nigeria, resource control, revenue sharing, we will debate today. By the way, in living together, it could not have been wrong to ask, hey, how do we share our resources? Who controls what and where do we – each person – meet ourselves?
In 1952, we counted ourselves. This, we repeated in 1962/63. In 1974, we counted ourselves, which we repeated in 1991. And in each case, something went wrong. Something we call ethnocentrism, which, as defined by Prof. Okwudiba Nnoli and as it relates with the matter at hand, is the pathological fear of the number or numerical strength of others. As you know, ethnically conscious citizens do not get unsettled by headcounts. This is because he believes that whatever number that represented the truth would provide the platform to extend the fortunes of the nation, be it more favourable to another ethnic group or the other.
Starting far back in 3800 BC in Babylon, census has been a business of nations, from ages. Etched in the old statute books among the Hebrews, Egyptians, Chinese and Greeks, it had developed into a political instrument for taxation and military conscription to serve the aristocracy of Europe and Asia and in 1086, took its formally codified state in the English Doomsday Book. But the culture of regularity commenced with the exercise in New France (Quebec), in 1665, with the United States having its first outstanding headcount in 1790.
For its importance, as revealed in the theories on demography, the great Thomas Robert Malthus and Belgian statistician, Achille Guilland, the United Nations set global criteria for censuses to be seen to represent broad characteristics of the people in question. These include: place of residence, family status, sex, age, marital status, offspring, birthplace, job/employment status, citizenship, language, ethnic, religious character, level of education, total population, population distribution, and household composition.
Indeed, this had always been serious businesses as even commenced in the age of the bishoprics, with the Swedish parishes required in law to maintain records of births, deaths and marriages, which in effect have continued till date in Scandinavia, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium.
My countrymen, today, in Nigeria, we have come to understand that the fear of number remains a problem of an elitist cabal which would never tolerate the testing cases of objective analysis.
But the world over, census is census. It is an enumeration of people. How can we conclusively conduct a census where we can ask questions on the colour of the eyes, the height and weight of the individual but not what that person does on Sunday or Friday. Why do we need to know that the person is a man or woman but will not have anything to do with the faith? Come off it, this is playing ostrich.
We need not tutor ourselves that demographic data can be used for planning, statistical calculation, dentition, dietary analysis, marketing and in fact disbursement of common resources. Would it not present a social problem for a marketer – may be a foreigner - to storm a Muslim strong base to offer such sentimental polarities which will offend the prevailing faith? Would it not present an upset to export bikinis to places where such offends the tradition and faith? Should our people be condemned for erasable ignorance? Nay, countrymen, Nay!
We in the South east have variously demanded the inclusion of ethnic and religious characteristics in the original data as well as the analysis. We made it clear that if it had to be census, it should take whatever a census takes. That is also the debate, today.
Let us review the gains of constitutional debate. The opinions of our fore-fathers were certainly not invited at the merger of Lagos Colony with the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, in 1906.
When the Protectorates of North and South of Nigeria were amalgamated in 1914, the opinions of the people, we remember, were still not invited. Yet, intense debates had followed and have indeed remained potent. Same were cases for the past constitution-making and development exercises – right through from 1922 to 1951. Some, we did acknowledge, refused or disregarded the input of our fathers and fore-fathers, others merely nodding in benign acknowledgment. Yet, what was paramount was that efforts were bringing about some desired changes, while they revealed the imperfection of man as in the sheer shenanigans of political power players.
Again, our political history reveals that from 1967 – 1996, 36 states had been created in what has been known as political impunity. Now, we have democracy in our land and we should consider it ripe to debate and embark on balancing of the polity. Let us consider where the debate of a possible Middle Belt, a possible C-O-R state; at the creation of Mid-west; stopped. That is fairness. That is equity. And that we will debate today.
We talk about sharing of power, rotation of leadership. It is not new. At the dawn of independence, Action Group and the NCNC were to form a government, but the latter said that for national interest and stability, it had to opt for the NPC. At the reintroduction of democratic rule in 1979, the NPP did virtually the same with the NPN, believing that such would confer on it some good share and spread of political power.
But then, if a region as the North of Nigeria has been in power for 35 of the 45 years in the life of our nation, and does not consider that it should be due to other regions, can we say we are being fair in one nation of one destin?. We actually expect our brothers in the North to accept that we are part owners and custodians, of the same heritage, Nigeria. Or are we not? Does this attitude suggest that our brothers view us as those of other countries who should not share in the roles of services to our fatherland?
I salute the doggedness of the sons and daughters of Oduduwa! I salute the tenacity of the sons and daughters of the Niger Delta, despite the assault of environmental degradation, near permanent minority status and difficult terrain; I salute the spirit of Adaka Isaac Boro, Jaja of Opopo, Dapa Biriye, and Engineer Harcourt. I still salute the spirit of Mongo Park, Dr. Baikie, George Goldie, the Lander brothers and the pioneer modernists who passed that region, and set the stage for the mergence of a nation.
For Ndi Igbo ibem, let us salute the spirit of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, Akanu Ibiam, Alvan Ikoku, and Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu.
By these great men who led the independence struggles, we render the account that the pre-colonial as well as colonial personages like Mr. Stapleddon, Captain Harris Philip, Fathers Dennis, Bubendorff, Major A.G Leonard, alias otikpo obodo and more, could not have wasted their time and lived in contributing their pints of blood and strokes of bones; to building a cultured people.
Let us salute the trinity of Igbo character:
1. the Igbo cot of reason – akpauche,
2. the Igbo spirit of adventure – njepu, and
3. the Igbo spirit of endeavour – aka ikenga;
believing that as these propelled us over the ages, territories and tasks, the result of which had been the well acknowledged accomplishment:
1. Ntozu, which compels the universal acclaim of fame; Odenigbo, we shall face our inclusiveness with the required manliness of a people.
When then we say, countrymen, To God be the Glory, we underline the fame and substance of Igbo general acknowledgment of fame and recognition, which your well cherished presence reinforces.
To God, indeed, be the Glory.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.